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Enough is enough. Once again the New Providence landfill is on fire and Bahamians continue to suffer the ill-effects of poor management to safeguard our health. The prevalence of spills, leaks, fires or other incidents across the archipelago warrant immediate attention by government to implement regulations and enforce accountability. And the government especially should seek to live up to the standards set out in law.
Since the Environmental Health Services Act was enacted in 1987 few of the recommended regulations have been properly implemented, much to the detriment of the Bahamian people. Regulations for the collection and disposal of waste only came to fruition in 2004. In fact, the act explicitly recommends measures for the prevention and control of pollution of the air, contaminated land and water. While we can praise such forethought, successive efforts to enact final environmental legislation continue to fail.
The Planning and Subdivision Act 2010 may be considered a small victory for the natural environment with its attempt to promote sustainable development through planning policy. On the positive side, it briefly outlines the requisites for an environmental impact assessment or statement, but it hardly satisfies the need for more stringent controls to prevent and hold accountable the release of harmful substances into the environment. Surprisingly, the Department of Environmental Health Services does support an Environmental Monitoring and Risk Assessment Division; yet its absence from public discourse provides little assurance.
The Bahamian people are justified in their outcry over the lingering dump fires. The government's request for nearby residents to keep doors and windows closed is not a long-term solution. Even more so, the public ought to know the extent of adverse impairment to ambient air quality. We would be naive to assume that all garbage in the New Providence landfill is adequately sorted, eliminating the presence of potentially hazardous substances.
But dangers to human health and the environment also lurk within the land. Contamination of land, particularly below the surface, is difficult to detect and when discovered it is prohibitively expensive to remediate. Earlier this year, an underground gasoline leak was discovered at a Robinson Road gas station. Residents with water wells were right to voice concern over the lack of information provided about the leak. The Ministry of the Environment and Housing engaged a Canadian firm, SENES Consultants Limited, to investigate and submit a report to the government, a report not likely to be disclosed to the public.
Environment Minister Kenred Dorsett, in response to the gas station leak, noted that the government is looking to impose stiffer penalties for environment-based offenses. Such a practice may enhance vigilance and hold accountable private businesses, but what about the potential adverse impacts from government-owned entities such as BEC and the landfills? BEC admits lagging behind on maintenance and using Bunker C, a known dirty fuel. Can the government assure residents that smoke stack emissions meet international air quality standards? What about car and bus emissions, or even cruise ship emissions while they are downtown?
As an active participant in numerous United Nations environmental conventions, The Bahamas cannot feign ignorance over the cumulative hazards to human health and the environment. The expansion of environmental education through community programs by the Bahamas National Trust and Bahamas Reef Environment Educational Foundation is building awareness. Exerting greater control over the accountability for harmful releases into the environment would surely benefit the Bahamian people. International standards from recognized entities such as ASTM International exist to identify recognized environmental conditions and determine steps for containment and removal.
Bahamians should expect more from their government regarding the safeguard of human health and the environment. The government has the blueprint and the knowledge, it simply needs greater pressure from the people to act.
It was in the 1980s that God placed a vision into the heart of Pastor Jay Simms to build a local church and Bible school where men and women could be trained for ministry without having to leave The Bahamas.
The efforts of the church began with seven adults and Simms' four-year-old twin daughters meeting at the Simms' apartment on Sunday, June 12, 1988, for a worship service. To date the Christian Life Church (CLC) presently hosts two weekend services which accommodate a regular attendance of close to 400 people, including a cross section of the population of New Providence. Its members are gearing up to celebrate the church's 25th anniversary.
Celebrating under the theme "Together Embracing Our Destiny", a special week of services to commemorate the occasion will be held June 20-23.
During the week a number of dynamic speakers will take to the podium to deliver messages -- Bishop Walter Hanchell of Great Commission Ministries; Prophet David Wagner (Pensacola, Florida); Dr. Ivan Butler Jr., senior pastor, Kemp Road Ministries; Bishop Neil Ellis, senior pastor, Mt. Tabor Full Gospel Baptist Church, and Dr. Ronald Cottle (Columbus, Georgia), founder and president of Christian Life Educators Network.
Christian Life Church members will also celebrate with a banquet on Friday, June 28 at Sheraton Nassau Beach Resort & Casino. Cottle will speak at the anniversary celebration service on Sunday, June 30 at 3 p.m.
CLC members will conclude the church's anniversary celebrations with a birthday bash to be held in the church's parking lot from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday, July 6.
"The mission of Christian Life Church is to connect people to Jesus to empower them for Christ-centered living," said Simms.
"We believe that everyone needs to be linked to a small group of believers and to our weekend worship services, as well as activated through maturity, ministry and mission for our generation."
Simms extended an invitation to all believers to come out and be part of the CLC anniversary.
"We firmly believe that we are better together," said the pastor.
From the initial meeting of the few for that worship service that would begin the efforts for a church and school to equip Bahamian Christian believers for the work of ministry, the group increased to 28 the following Sunday. On June 26, they met at Poinciana Arena on Bernard Road and Christian Life Church was officially born.
"From those early days of the few people who had a longing for teaching of the word of God, for application of scriptural truths to daily living, with emphasis on equipping the saints for the work of the ministry, and to penetrate the local community for the Lord Jesus Christ, CLC has come a long way," said Simms.
After meeting at Poinciana Arena, amid many challenges for approximately one year, the growing fellowship moved to Pilot House Hotel on East Bay Street for six weeks, then over to Lowe's Harbour Cove Hotel on Paradise Island. They expanded to include children's ministry. In June 1990, the young congregation moved into a storefront in Carey's Shopping Centre on Prince Charles Drive. Simms said they finally had a stable location for a church home. And that it was there on January 17, 1991 that Christian Life School of Theology and Seminary International began with 21 students.
In September 1991, the Christian Life Church family moved into the front of the shopping center and doubled the size space, providing room for an office and budding children's ministry. It was at that time that Simms negotiated the purchase of property on Soldier Road near the then Village Road roundabout, and the church looked forward to the future. In August 1997, they acquired another storefront making more space available to the growing flock.
In June 1996, Simms identified and negotiated the purchase of Sea Breeze Manor on Sea Breeze Lane as the future home for Christian Life Church and its rising ministries. The original owners of the property on Soldier Road refunded 100 percent of the payments to the church, and this was used as partial down-payment toward the acquisition of Sea Breeze Manor.
He said in October 1998, with God's favor and the deal complete, the church was able to occupy the facility.
According to Simms, the Christian Life Church family continues to grow. He said among the more memorable and impacting occasions in the church's history are the "40 Days Campaign" and that the church has hosted at least one regular radio program for many years. Christian Life Church has been the host for the weekly television ministry program "The Encouraging Word" for over 10 years.
The church serves as the home base for Christian Life School of Theology (CLST), which has inspired and trained both men and women for ministry from over 300 local churches across denominational lines for 22 years. These leaders have received certificates of ministry through the doctorate of theology and serve as lay ministers, pastors, teachers, and national overseers for denominations. CLST in Nassau currently serves as the covering for campuses located in Eleuthera and Andros and is the first international affiliate campus of the Christian Life Educators Network located in Columbus, Georgia.
The church purchased a portable classroom unit in the summer of 2003, to increase its ministry possibilities. The property became debt free early in 2007, and in 2011, Christian Life Church began the building of the first of two proposed two-storey wings for education, multi-purpose rooms and administration, and eagerly anticipates their future to the glory of God and to furthering His kingdom work in Nassau and beyond.
Over the years, Simms has traveled to a number of islands and countries and serves on the board of trustees of the International Third World Leaders' Association. He is also a bishop with the ACTS Network and the Church of God in Cleveland, Tennessee. His passion continues to be that of motivating believers toward maturity and ministry. To this end, CLC has hosted many preachers, teachers, apostolic and prophetic leaders, whose anointings challenge and inspire the body of Christ towards faithfully fulfilling its unique role in the work of the Kingdom of God.
"Christian Life Church has embraced the assignment from God of inspiring and empowering people to reach their God-given potential in all areas of their lives for successful everyday living because the mission of Christian Life Church is to connect people to Jesus to empower them for Christ-centered living," said Simms.
Minister of Education Jerome Fitzgerald's announcement that it could take up to two years to implement a revised version of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) yesterday received mixed reactions from some organizations pushing for FOIA to be enacted.
In an interview with The Nassau Guardian last week, Fitzgerald said although the Department of Archives suggested an implementation timeline of 18-24 months, it is not set it stone.
National Congress of Trade Unions of The Bahamas President John Pinder said that timeline proves the government does not view FOIA as a priority.
"While we know the Bahamian population will benefit greatly from being able to have more information as it relates to the governance of our country, we know that politicians wish to always have control over those things," Pinder said.
"It is not a priority for them. They like being able to hide certain things from us."
The act was passed in 2012, but the former administration never implemented it.
Fitzgerald said recently that the act itself would need over 100 amendments or needs to be scrapped entirely and redrafted.
But the minister said the government is committed to implementing FOIA despite the level of work needed.
However, Pinder said although the government has expressed its commitment, it has not demonstrated that commitment and instead continued to "drag its feet".
But Bahamas National Trust Executive Director Eric Carey said the government appears to be listening to the concerns of those pushing for the implementation of FOIA.
He encouraged the non-governmental organizations and opposition parties pushing for the legislation to be implemented to carefully review the act and prepare a revised draft for the government.
He said it is important that the government does implement an effective FOIA.
Carey said while the implementation of FOIA may take some time, he hopes the process will begin soon.
"I look forward to the appointment of the group that the minister said he is going to appoint," Carey said.
"I would like to see who is going to be on that. Obviously there should be some bipartisan representation and also some good representation from civil society, including some of the representatives from at least some of the groups that have been quite vocal."
Democratic National Alliance (DNA) Leader Branville McCartney expressed dissimilar views.
McCartney said after the Ingraham administration tabled the Freedom of Information Bill in Parliament in October 2011, the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) reviewed, debated and made recommendations on that bill.
He questioned why almost three years after the bill was tabled, and two and a half years since the PLP became the government, it would take another two years to implement FOIA.
He accused the government of making another empty promise.
"That tells me this government is more than wanting," McCartney said.
"...That tells me that at the end of the day, they are stuck on not being transparent and accountable to the Bahamian people," the DNA leader said.
"That tells me that at the end of the day, this government has failed Bahamian people miserably, yet again."
Nassau, Bahamas - The following is a press statement by Free National Movement Party Chairman, Carl Bethel.
I wish to advise
the general public that the Central Council of the Free National Movement
unanimously to hold the next National Convention of the
Party in 2011, at a date to be determined by the Party.
is in accord with the Party's constitution which stipulates, by Article
49, that the National Convention must be held at least every two years.
The Party held
a successful convention last year which highlighted the many accomplishments
of the FNM in what, at the time, was approximately two and a half years
in office. We will meet again next year with even more of our
trust agenda accomplished...
NASSAU, Bahamas - This past holiday weekend, 155 visitors descended upon Primeval Forest National Park in Nassau for a family fun day to celebrate National Heroes Day.
Tucked away in the southwest portion of New Providence, Primeval Forest features dramatic sinkholes, unique limestone caverns and an impressive 150 year-old, old growth forest.
Visiting families were treated to adventure tours of the park during the fun day.
During the event, in addition to adventure tours, children were treated to story time and great learning activities.
The family fun day was such a success that the Bahamas National Trust (BNT) had to add several tours and additional story times to accommodate the families attending the fun day.
Shenica Campbell, Deputy Park Warden for New Providence noted, "The day was filled with a sense of adventure and merriment for our visitors because many of them never knew that such a robust forested park with amazing unique features existed in New Providence."
"The John Beadle Project", new work by John Beadle, opens Thursday, April 25 at 7 p.m. at The National Art Gallery of The Bahamas. For more information, visit www.nagb.org.bs, email email@example.com or call 328-5800/1.
"Master Artists of The Bahamas" opens Thursday, April 25 at 7 p.m. at The National Art Gallery of The Bahamas. Featured Artists are John Beadle, Jackson Burnside, Stan Burnside, John Cox, Amos Ferguson, Kendal Hanna, Brent Malone, Eddie Minnis, Antonius Roberts, Dave Smith and Max Taylor. For more information, visit www.nagb.org.bs, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 328-5800/1.
"A New Direction: Mother & Child III", new work by Jessica and Erin Colebrook, opens Saturday, May 4 at 10 a.m. at Hillside House.
"Flower of Dreams", a collection of floral paintings by Lisa Quinn of Bermuda, continues at the Antonius Roberts Studio and Gallery at Hillside House. For more information, visit http://www.antoniusroberts.com/, email email@example.com or call 322-7678.
"Responsible Faith" continues at The Ladder Gallery, New Providence Community Centre, Blake Road. Artists will paint on 55-gallon metal drums, which will be exhibited and then donated to community parks. The drum covers will be used to create wall art for a permanent collection at The Ladder Gallery. Some will also be sold to benefit ACE Diabetes.
"Tropical Alchemy", original art works by Tyler Johnston, continues at Popopstudios ICVA in Chippingham. This exhibition focuses on three inter-related bodies of work: maps of inheritance, power objects and transmutational icons. Rich in texture and color, Johnston has painted and assembled simple objects that he has found, allowing them to be transformed into something simultaneously complex and simple. There will also be a special performance by Bahama Woodstarr at 7:30 p.m. For more information, visit www.popopstudios.com.
"26.6 N-78.7 W", an exhibition by Del Foxton, Susan Moir Mackey and Boryana Korcheva, continues at 4 Martel Place, Bell Channel in Freeport, Grand Bahama. For more information, contact Susan Moir Mackey at firstname.lastname@example.org or (242) 353-4333 or 602-2014.
"Bubbles", new work by Antonius Roberts, continues at The Central Bank Art Gallery. The gallery is open Monday to Friday, 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. This work will be on display until Friday, April 26.
All-star Amateur Artist (AAA) Artwork: "NE6: Kingdom Come" Edition continues at the The National Art Gallery of The Bahamas. Amateur artists were asked to create works that relate to the distinct sections, Identity, Spirituality & Balance, Justice, Transformation and Survival.
"Kaleidoscope III", an exhibition by the Bahamas Union of Teachers and the Bahamas Association of Art Educators, is featured at the Treasury Building on East Street. The exhibit will feature works by art instructors from both private and public schools throughout The Bahamas.
"SINGLESEX", an all-female portrait show depicting only female subjects, continues at The National Art Gallery of The Bahamas. NAGB Curator John Cox says it is meant to stand in dialogue with the "Master Artists of The Bahamas" exhibition (later this year), which has no female representation. For more information, visit www.nagb.org.bs, email email@example.com or call 328-5800/1.
"Peace & Love: Writings on the Wall", an exhibition of recent work by Stan Burnside continues at the Stan Burnside Gallery, Tower Heights, Eastern Road. They are available to view by appointment by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.
The Permanent Exhibition of the National Art Gallery of The Bahamas, displaying pieces under the theme "The Bahamian Landscape", continues this week at the National Art Gallery of The Bahamas. Gallery hours: Tue. - Sat. 10 a.m. - 4 p.m.; Sun. noon - 4 p.m. Admission $5 adults; $3 students/seniors; children under 12 are free. For more information, visit www.nagb.org.bs, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 328-5800/1.
New online workshops from the Gaulin Project will begin in May. "A Light Through My Window: Writing the Spiritual Memoir" and "When My Body Speaks" will run from May 6 to June 30. Registration for each workshops is $450. For more information, visit http://helenklonaris.com/the-gaulin-project-upcoming-workshops/ or email Helen Klonaris at email@example.com.
Lectures and Readings
Netica Symonette launches her book, "A Girl Called Nettie: A Memoir of Fate, Friendship and Love" on Friday, April 26 at 6 p.m. at Casuarinas of Cable Beach on West Bay Street. The book is an intimate account of Symonette's personal life over the past seven decades, breaking barriers and blazing trails. RSVP at 327-7921.
The National Art Gallery of The Bahamas will screen "Jackson Burnside III: Native Son", a documentary film by Island Films on Saturday, April 27 at 6 p.m. The film is free and open to the public. Director Karen Arthur will be in attendance for a question and answer period.
Bahamas FilmInvest International will host the 5th Travelling Caribbean Film Showcase in June at Galleria Cinemas. This year's showcase will feature 29 feature films, documentaries, animations and children's films, with a special tribute being paid to the 40th anniversary of Bahamian independence.
Islandz, having acquired Downtown Art Tours, offers its Islandz Gallery Hop tours, examining art spaces downtown on Saturdays. Tickets are $20 per person for the two-hour tour. For more information or to book tickets, call 601-7592 or visit Islandz online at www.islandzmarket.com.
Tru Bahamian food tours offers a "Bites of Nassau" food tasting and cultural walking tour to connect people with authentic local food items, stories and traditions behind the foods and the Bahamians that prepare and preserve them, through a hands-on, interactive, educational tour and culinary adventure. Tickets are $69 per person, $49 for children under 12. Tours are everyday from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., starting at the British Colonial Hilton and ending at Tortuga Rum Cake Company. For more information, visit www.trubahamianfoodtours.com.
Call for works
The Bahamas National Trust presents its Conchservation Campaign Logo Competition. Logos should be simple; easy to read; able to stand along without text and scalable. Designs will be judged on originality, simplicity, memorability and relevance. Entries should also include a brief explanation of the rationale behind the design and can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org. The deadline is for submission is 5 p.m. on April 24, 2013.
WomanSpeak Journal is calling for submissions of art and photography for its upcoming seventh volume. The theme for this volume is "Voices of Dissent, Writing and Art to Transform the Culture". Please send questions or submissions to email@example.com with the subject line "WSJ submission". The deadline is Tuesday, April 30.
Family Guardian's annual Calendar Photo Contest is open to all Bahamian photographers, under the theme "A Celebration of Bahamian Pastimes". The deadline for entries is July 12. For more information, visit http://www.familyguardian. com.
The 10th Annual Bahamas International Film Festival invites filmmakers from around the worls to submit their narratives, documentaries, worls cinema, short films, animation and family films. This year's festival takes place December 5-13 on New Providence and Eleuthera. The deadline is July 17. For more information, visit http://bintlfilmfest.com.
The 30th Annual Central Bank of The Bahamas Art Competition and Exhibition invites entries for its Open Category under the theme "The Independents", in commemoration of the 40th anniversary of Bahamian independence, which is being celebrated this year. The objectives of the competition are to identify, recognize and encourage Bahamian visual artists. To qualify, participants must be citizens of The Bahamas, aged 18 or older (as of October 1, 2013) and not registered in secondary school. The Open/Senior Category Competition and Exhibition component will be held from Tuesday, October 1 to Friday, November 1. Artists under 30 years are especially encouraged to embrace this opportunity of the theme of "The Independents" as a challenge in terms of material and/or the role and responsibilities of independent thinking in art in The Bahamas, as well as, thinking of the larger political symbolism of independence of the country.
This column was originally published on February 9, 2010
Andros Island, the fifth largest island in the Caribbean, and larger than many CARICOM countries, is big and long. It boasts one of the largest national parks in the region, one of the world’s largest barrier reefs and a magnificent Tongue of the Ocean with a 6,000 foot drop-off.
From the Bahamas National Trust: “As one of the least populated regions in the Caribbean Basin, Andros Island and its myriad of tidal creeks, interconnected lakes, mud flats and mangroves support some of the largest populations of underwater life in the region.”
Both the Central Andros National Park and the west side of Andros are areas of ...
The Bahamas - National Heritage sites allow Bahamian students a scientific and
educational advantage to learn and interact with virgin biodiversity
Park, off Cowpen Road, is one of many national sites currently being nominated
by the Bahamas National Trust (BNT), as a biosphere reserve to be added to
UNESCO's World Network of Biosphere Reserves (WNBR), as international protected
areas. The Bahamas will be added to its recent list of 564
internationally protected areas in 109 countries worldwide...
Downtown Nassau embodies all of the elements for a beautiful cosmopolitan city: harbor frontage, history and architectural splendors. Yet its revitalization stymies, not for lack of effort by the Downtown Nassau Partnership, but from years of poor planning and inadequate maintenance. As the government seeks to reignite investment in the Family Islands, it must be cognizant of the shortcomings created by ad-hoc development so brazenly portrayed on New Providence.
The Bahamas courts foreign direct investment often in the form of land development projects. In fact, the 2013/2014 budget communication acknowledges that foreign investment projects are expected to continue to support construction activity. A point reiterated by Prime Minister Perry Christie in his address to Parliament, where he championed the thousands of prospective jobs stemming from development proposals on Eleuthera, Exuma and the Exuma Cays, Mayaguana, Cat Island and others.
Unfortunately, such land development proposals can linger on the cusp of approval for months or years frustrating both the developer and jobseekers. Delays emanate from inconsistent government policies that arise in part from the absence of a cohesive national development strategy. The Bahamas struggles to proactively build its future and to facilitate those projects that meet national and island-specific goals.
Land use planning is a mechanism and vital component to guide and sustain the future development of The Bahamas. By integrating existing environmental and socio-economic conditions with national development goals, The Bahamas can facilitate project-specific investment that aligns with a vision for progressive growth.
The Planning and Subdivision Act as a catalyst
Enacted in 2010, a primary objective of the Planning and Subdivision Act is to "provide for land use planning based on a development control system led by policy, land use designations, and zoning". The 2010 act provides a refreshing legislative update that aligns Bahamian policy with modern planning principles. The planning process has evolved from a fragmented ad hoc approach to a macro-vision for community connectivity.
According to the 2010 act, a land use plan is a policy document that shows existing and future planned land uses including lands to be protected from development. While intentionally vague so as not be restrictive, a more appropriate definition is provided by Canadian Institute of Planners whereby planning "means the scientific, aesthetic, orderly dispositions of land, resources, facilities, and services with a view to secure the physical, economic and social efficiency, health and well-being of urban and rural communities".
A land use plan considers the physical, social and economic environment of a particular geographic area - i.e., the South Ocean property or Abaco. Most importantly, a land use plan is often a spatial (map) representation comprising several layers of data held in geographic information system (GIS) that allows for qualitative and quantitative analysis.
By integrating various land use designations in layers, such as environmental reserves, Crown land, utility infrastructure, planned commercial and residential areas, visual analysis of existing and proposed development becomes readily identifiable. Development thus becomes sustainable by being able to identify existing infrastructure and natural resource capabilities against future demand.
New Providence: A case study
New Providence mimics the global trend in urbanization with its proportion of the population increasing from 54 percent in 1953 to 70 percent in 2010. Such a high concentration of the population in the capital begets a natural accrual of public, economic and infrastructure resources further incentivizing relocation from the Family Islands. Yet, despite the perceived employment opportunities, poor planning has exacerbated the woes accompanying urbanization, namely crime and social stratification.
The World Bank acknowledges that demographic transitions are particularly difficult for small to medium-sized cities. In turn, insufficient infrastructure investment compounds the major urban challenges identified by the World Bank as climate change, resource scarcity, slum growth, poverty and safety concerns.
New Providence is all too familiar with these challenges as heavy rains exacerbate the drainage woes of Pinewood Gardens, shantytowns proliferate unabated and crime remains near record levels. Moreover, New Providence portrays the shortcomings of conventional zoning policy where building uses seldom account for adjacent land uses or public spaces. The fire at Strachan's Auto that threatened nearby homes exemplifies this danger.
But New Providence has been the subject of several concentrated land use studies. The revitalization of downtown Nassau has been mapped by ESDA and the recently implemented and completed road improvement project proposed some 20 years ago. But like the Family Islands, infrastructure costs are a significant capital burden depending on the investment of others or through proposed mechanisms like private-public partnerships.
A land use planning revolution
The 2010 act stipulates that land use plans shall be prepared for each island of The Bahamas and be available for public viewing. A comprehensive plan that entails the needs of a community while safeguarding natural resources provides a vision for the future possibilities of development.
Public participation is a crucial part of the specific island plans and may encourage positive developer relations. A land use plan previewed by the public may circumvent future issues of Crown land allotment if such uses are known to follow the goals of a national development policy.
In 2008, Planning Abaco, a land use plan for Abaco, was developed by Andrews University with the participation of Bahamian students, in collaboration with several local Bahamian firms. More recently, Harvard University has partnered with the government and the Bahamas National Trust to form Sustainable Exuma, an ongoing education and research directive to
generate land use plans for
Exuma. Both plans follow
the premise of sustainable development with a strong emphasis on environmental consideration and public space, but both are yet to be implemented.
At present, much of the concern surrounding Resorts World Bimini and the proposed expansion stems from the lack of an overall land use plan for Bimini and public consultation. While the public is assured that EDSA is drafting a master plan, it is curious that a land use plan is being developed in conjunction with construction.
It is also prudent to remember that numerous places in New Providence developed at a time when the environmental impacts were not assessed and many projects would never have been approved today. Yet, today policymakers cannot feign ignorance to the economic consequences of environmental degradation resulting from poor planning.
Integrated land use planning is integral to facilitating an actual commitment to sustainable development in The Bahamas.
o Melissa Bray Alexiou is the director of Waypoint Consulting Ltd., a project management and environmental consulting firm in Nassau, The Bahamas. For more information, visit www.waypointconsultingbahamas.com.
The first in a series of lectures was held recently at the Harry C. Moore Library at The College of the Bahamas, where there was a lively discussion on the whole concept of freedom of information.
To date, ineffective freedom of information legislation, limited access to environmental decisions and even less public participation in the decision-making process, has made the task of getting information regarding governmental decisions quite difficult.
But, there is a glimmer of hope on the horizon.
"Our Right to Know" is a multi-perspective lecture series sponsored by The College of the Bahamas and NGOs Save the Bays, BREEF and the Bahamas National Trust. The series has charged head on into the fray with an initial lecture series on the Freedom of Information Act and the Latin American and Caribbean regional instrument on Principle 10 of the Rio Declaration and their importance for government transparency.
The series, set to focus on pressing environmental law and policy issues, held its first lecture on October 22 in the library.
Lecturers included retired Justice Jeanne Thompson, Assistant Professor at The College of The Bahamas Lisa Benjamin and Dawson Malone, Eugene Dupuch Law School graduate of Callenders & Co.
Retired Justice Thompson started off the forum with an in depth look at the Freedom of Information Bill. With an absurdly long shelf life, The Freedom of Information Bill has sat through two successive governments, only to yield a bill with noted deficiencies.
As Justice Thompson took audience members through the bill's wording, cogent problems such as the lack of access to judicial or quasi-judicial bodies to challenge decisions made by ministers became increasingly apparent.
Further, Justice Thompson exposed the lack of a definition of "public interest". This is important because information concerning the public interest forms certain exemptions to information which would otherwise be excluded from disclosure. Justice Thompson asked, "How do we interpret any of these clauses if there is no definition of public interest?"
"What we seem to be left with is an act with no teeth," said Thompson. "We would still be in a position waiting for a whistle blower to let us know what is going on."
The second panelist, Lisa Benjamin, led spectators to consider the international perspectives on access to environmental decisions through the Aarhus Convention and the ongoing regional negotiation on Principle 10 of the Rio Declaration by Latin American and Caribbean States.
According to Benjamin, "The Aarhus Convention, which has not been signed or ratified by The Bahamas, is the only binding international convention that enshrines the three pillars of environmental democracy: Access to justice, access to Information and public participation."
Urging audience members to put more pressure on the Bahamian government to incorporate these principles into domestic law, Benjamin outlined the accountability the convention places on respective governments.
"Parties to the Aarhus Convention are bound by international law to incorporate the principles of access to justice, access to information and public participation in their domestic law to afford their citizens access to the decisions making process concerning environmental sustainability".
While Aarhus has been signed and ratified by 47 countries mainly centered in Europe, eighteen countries in the Caribbean and Latin American have adopted a regional approach to the institutionalization of access to information, access to justice and public participation.
The Declaration on the Application of Principle 10 on the Rio Declaration of Environment and Development (CELAC), signed by countries like Jamaica, Trinidad & Tobago, St. Vincent & Grenadines and the Dominican Republic, launched the way toward developing a regional instrument on access to environmental information, public participation and justice in June 2012.
The declaration has since gained traction through a series of negotiations and plans that have culminated in the Lima Vision for a Regional Instrument on Access Rights Relating to the Environment in October 2013.
In response to this vision, Caribbean and Latin American countries have since developed national legislation reflecting passive access to information, active access to information and arguably most importantly, the government's responsibility to disseminate information to the general public.
On the regional instrument Benjamin noted, "It is important to build a citizenry that is informed on sustainable development". Benjamin ended the presentation by emphasizing the need for countries like The Bahamas, where sustainable development is an important issue, to incorporate these international and regional conventions to make the government accountable.
The final speaker of the evening, Dawson Malone brought the debate home by placing the discussions of the Freedom of Information Act and international instruments on environmental democracy in the context of the largely controversial Bimini Bay development project.
Dawson explained the need for a viable Freedom of Information Act to prevent environmentally disastrous developments, stating, "If I am relying on access to the court to vindicate my rights, I must have information to do so".
The case against the Bimini Bay development project was unfortunately lost due to a number of factors. Dawson said, "It's difficult to say the decisions made by the court to go through with the development was access to justice."
Dawson emphasized the major pitfall in the case was the lack of information available to the public to stop the development in time.
"In order not to render your constitutional rights obtuse, you must have a Freedom of Information Act," he said.
"Our Right to Know" will continue the debate with the second part of the series on November 19th, 2014 in the Harry C. Moore Library.